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Spurs scrape and claw but in the end fall to the Grizzlies in OT loss

The Spurs had opportunities to steal the win, but shots at the end of regulation and overtime missed and led to their fifth loss in a row.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs fought hard to make it suspenseful but couldn’t complete the upset against the Grizzlies. San Antonio had opportunities to get the win at the end of regulation and overtime, but the ball refused to fall and they lost 124-122 against Memphis to drop to 5-7 for the season.

It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Silver and Black, as the Grizzlies scored immediately after the tip-off while the Spurs missed a couple of bunnies. Against an opponent like Memphis who has a clear talent advantage even little mistakes cost, and early on San Antonio paid for them. With the offense having to run through role players as the visitors kept Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell under control, the Silver and Black were struggling to get points on the board. Meanwhile, Ja Morant got everything he wanted on the other end and a blue jersey was the first to rebound a lot of misses. There was a sense that the Grizzlies could run away with it in the first quarter, but when Morant went to rest, his second unit couldn’t keep up the pace. The Spurs had a good stretch, and suddenly a lead that had reached 14 was cut down to six after one.

The momentum continued in the Silver and Black’s favor to start the second quarter, as the still Morant-less Grizzlies conceded a three from Vassell and a dunk from Charles Bassey that forced Taylor Jenkins to call for an early timeout. Both teams had their ups and downs for the rest of the period, even trading leads at one point, but neither could put together enough good possessions in a row to create separation. The Spurs would defend well a couple of times but wouldn’t capitalize on the other end. Memphis would commit some bad turnovers but turned to Morant or Bane to bail them out or got a timely offensive rebound to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t until it got close to the end of the half that the parity broke, as San Antonio struggled for a couple of minutes and allowed a 7-0 run that put them behind by seven at the break.

The third quarter was a microcosm of the first half. The Grizzlies put together a run to get up by double digits but simply could keep that distance, in part because they failed to execute but also because the Spurs refused to go away. Keldon Johnson, who had been quiet on offense in the first two periods, tried to get himself involved by making hustle plays while Tre Jones attacked Ja Morant. The gap closed quickly and the teams traded buckets for a while before San Antonio could find the first opportunity to take control of the game. The defense played with more intensity at the right time, just as Morant was about to sit to end the frame. Once the Grizzlies superstar was on the bench the Spurs pulled ahead and managed to actually create a five-point lead going into what could have been the last 12 minutes.

The start of the fourth seemed like a pivotal moment, as San Antonio had an opportunity to create a buffer against the Grizzlies' second unit before facing the starters that had dominated the matchup up until that point. It didn’t happen, as Memphis’ subs fought their way back into the lead. Morant, Desmond Bane and Steven Adams came back in with their team ahead, and it was hard to be hopeful that the game would have a close ending. But the trend of one of the two squads failing to pounce at the right time continued and Memphis looked lost. A game that probably shouldn’t have been that close, considering some poor individual performance from key San Antonio players, actually came down to the final second, when a Keldon Johnson shot with the score tied danced on the rim but didn’t fall.

Overtime looked like it was going to be unexciting, as the Grizzlies scored in their five trips down the court and led by nine with under two minutes to go. But this sloppy, fun matchup had one more twist. The Spurs kept pushing and cut it down to five with 42 left. Then the Grizzlies missed, the clock stopped working, the officials didn’t notice, and Jeremy Sochan scored on the break and got a quick steal to cut the lead to just one. After the confusion subsided San Antonio fouled, Morant missed one at the line, and once against the home team had the possibility to win it at the buzzer. Unfortunately, Devin Vassell’s three-pointer didn’t fall, and the Spurs dropped their fifth straight.

Game notes

  • A bad night on offense from Keldon Johnson (4-for-15) seemed to trigger a similarly inefficient game from Josh Richardson (4-for-12), who simply tried to do too much off the dribble. The problem with not having more natural ball handlers/creators is that when one of the featured options struggles, someone has to step out of their comfort zone to make up for it.
  • Jakob Poeltl and Charles Bassey had good games, but Steven Adams arguably had a bigger impact than both thanks to his work on the offensive boards. Because the perimeter defense couldn’t stay in front of the Grizzlies’ guards, the Spurs’ bigs had to step up to contest and as a result left the glass unprotected. Adams feasted to the tune of 10 offensive boards and Santi Aldama got four. Second opportunities were huge for a Memphis team that was not always sharp on offense.
  • Speaking of rebounds, only two for Jeremy Sochan in 30 minutes is unacceptable, but the rookie did make his mark in other ways. His defense is already good and could be special and he seems to find ways to score despite not having a developed offensive game. He’s still a project at this point, but he keeps earning his minutes.
  • The Spurs are now two games below .500 after dropping the last five. As long as they at least keep matchups close, the young guys should continue to learn how to play in high-intensity situations, which is important.

Play of the game

It’s fantastic to see how willing to share the ball this group is.

Next game: Vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday

It’s likely the losing streak will continue when the 10-1 Bucks come to visit, but this Spurs team has the potential to cause upsets, so it could be a fun matchup.